I couldn’t be more excited to start this new – and mildly daunting – venture in blogging. While I’m no stranger to sharing my diabetes story with others online, it’s a bit more intimidating to craft my own blog and show a more personal side of myself.
In fact, if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a diabetes blogger who’s connected with T1Ds all across the country, I would have looked at you like you were absolutely insane. I was already accustomed to a life with diabetes in my teenage years, but that didn’t mean I was willing to talk about it. I shunned the notion of attending diabetes camp or meeting other peers with T1D. I figured that the only other T1Ds I needed in my life were my mom and my aunt – their support was enough for me.
This point of view changed, though, just before I started my freshman year at college. Suddenly, I was all too aware of the fact that I’d be forced to take full responsibility of my diabetes care and management for the first time in my life. College meant a true taste of independence, and with that came accountability for my health. This realization made me accept that perhaps I should welcome some additional support into my life.
That’s when the College Diabetes Network entered the picture. A quick search online brought me to this incredible nonprofit. After learning that a chapter existed at my school, I made it my goal to give it a try and go to a meeting. Little did I know that over the course of the next three years, I would become the president of this chapter and register it as a student organization on campus.
My involvement with the CDN has provided me with many opportunities. I’ve attended conferences and gained internship experiences due to my connection to the CDN. I’ve met dozens of people like me all across the country – individuals looking for peer support as we navigate the tricky world of diabetes, college, the real world, and young adulthood. Hearing stories both similar to and different from my own never fails to make an impact on me, and the inspiration I draw from others gives me the courage to make my voice heard within and outside the diabetes community.
In fact, my openness over sharing my diabetes resulted in my blog’s title: Hugging the Cactus. Anyone who knows me knows that I wear an OmniPod insulin pump and a Dexcom CGM. As I rotate sites around my body, this means that I sometimes wear them in plain sight. On a particular evening, I was wearing one on the back of each arm. I had made a trip to the restroom at a restaurant and was walking back to my table when a not-so-shy waiter asked me, politely, “What are those things on your arms?”
“Oh, it’s my insulin pump and my glucose monitor. I have type one diabetes and these help me manage it,” I explained, in a patient tone.
“Oh, I’m sorry – that’s terrible,” the waiter replied. Remorse appeared in his expression.
“Please don’t apologize,” I said to him, reassuringly. “I’ve had diabetes most of my life. I accept it and I’m grateful for these devices. They make it much easier to take care of myself.”
“That’s pretty cool, you know,” he said, his face changing. He smiled at me. “It’s like your hugging the cactus. Accepting the bad for what it is and embracing it.”
I remember flashing him a giant smile and laughing as I said, “I like that. That’s exactly what it is.” He wished me a good evening, which I reciprocated, before parting ways. I cemented the phrase “hugging the cactus” into my memory that night, because it sums up my perspective on life with diabetes perfectly.
And this is why I’m here: to share my stories with others, as well as to hear your stories. It’s my humble hope to positively impact the life of someone who deals with diabetes, directly or indirectly. Whether we share the same feelings or completely different ones regarding diabetes, I think it’s wonderful to be part of the diabetes community and share in the strength, knowledge, and sense of belonging found within it.